December 13th, 2009

But what's it *for*?

THe three values I proposed as basic are Kindness, Reason, and Action. What does it mean to call a value 'basic'?

What I've had a number of friends propose is that a basic value is one you pursue because you feel the value *itself* to be good. Being kind because you like being kind, not because it helps someone -- it probably does, but that's not your purpose in doing it.

That doesn't work for what I'm trying to do here. I'm all-too-aware that my emotions are endocrine responses run on wet firmware, and that I do have input into what causes me joy, fear, or anger. As example, many people are afraid when confronted by a large, obviously angry dog; I used to be, many years ago, but have learned to be not afraid. I know enough of dogs to have a good chance at calming it down, and I also know how to fight dogs, so my *emotional* response to the anger of the dog is more a firm-but-quiet "I'd like you to calm down, please."

Or, simpler: I have a strong liking for banana pancakes. As an excellent pancake chef, I could just as well make mango-macademia pancakes, if I have the ingredients handy, but I learned to like bananas in them because for a while this was my son's favorite food, and I absorbed some of *his* joy.

Before I get distracted by hunting for other bushes to beat around, my point is that the underlying structure I'm trying to support with this system of values is the idea that as a human, I am a social animal, and meet some of my personal needs by interaction with a social context around me, that I have some input in how it runs. I as an individual support the social entities of which I am a part; the entities in turn are supposed to help *me*. An old term for this is "the Social Contract," though the term was coined in an age in which there was a very strong implicit assumption that there could only ever exist one society with which to contract.

We live in what I'll call a 'post-societal' age, in that words such as society and community have been devalued to the point that they can apply to almost any human grouping or connection. If I don't like what I'm getting from any given social entity, it's almost always easier to go get that from another one than to try to change the first one to provide it for me.

But I think there's a vital and important point that internetworked social entities does not address: A whole human being. If I am having an internal mental or emotional problem, how can I tell that someone offering help will be doing so according to my own concept of self-interest? I think that even with the best of goodwill, the most someone in that position can do is help me according to *their* biases, but label those biases as clearly as they're able to, so that I can reinterpret their aid to match my own.

I think I tried to jam more into that last paragraph than actually fit. I'm going to propose as a simple case-example of such a situation; looking for a job. Some workplaces act on the philosophy that you're supposed to do what your boss tells you to do, and so if your boss *doesn't* tell you to do anything you sit, look attentive, and wait. Others expect you to go find what your function needs you to do and do it, and get upset with you if you sit attentively and wait. Some people work well in one of these situations and not the other; if I like to find things to do, I'd better find myself a workplace like the latter rather than the former.

It's more complex than that, which is what I'm trying to get to. The relationship between employee and job is interactive and interdependent; I can change my job and my job can change *me*.

And damn, I just ran out of steam. I'll toss this out there to see if anyone can see where I'm trying to go and get there first; if not, I'll come back and take another swing at it after I've hunted down a few more neurons.



What if I-as-an-individual am having a problem with my priortization schema?